This week saw the television launch of an exciting new female superhero, direct from Islamabad, Pakistan: The Burka Avenger!
The star of the animated series of thirteen, 22-minute episodes is a teacher who uses books and pens to fight the evil people who shut down schools and prevent girls from getting an education. The humorous show also teaches kids to protect the environment, and, good news for the Cultural Detective community, to respect diversity and include others.
Each episode features an original song and guest appearances by some of the biggest musical acts in South Asia, including Ali Zafar, Haroon, Ali Azmat, Adil Omar, and Josh. Goals include entertainment and positive messages to youth. The series’ trailer (in English) is below.
The Burka Avenger is the brainchild of Aaron Haroon Rashid, a Pakistan pop star who wanted to create a positive role model to counter the Taliban’s ongoing opposition to girls’ education. In explaining the choice of the burka, which the teacher, Jiya, only wears in superhero mode, Rashid explained, “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes. Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”
Of course this may well remind us of the indomitable Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban famously attempted to assassinate last October. On her 16th birthday this past July 12, the amazingly poised and well-spoken Malala delivered the first-ever education policy recommendations written for youth, by youth, to the United Nations (video below). July 12th has now been named Malala Day in her honor.
It is not just Pakistan where girls’ rights to education are in danger. Fortunately, the people at Mighty Girl Books have assembled a terrific list of books for children and teens that explore the challenge of girls’ access to education, worldwide and throughout history.
You may also remember the comic book series “The 99,” in which superheroes inspired by Islam (they are named after the 99 attributes of Allah) fight crime, smash stereotypes and battle extremism. Series creator Naif Al-Mutawa gave a talk at TED Global 2010. A video of his talk is below, and a free online issue is also available.
Thank you so much for posting this news item and the links to The Burka Avengers which I shared also on my personal LinkedIn and facebook pages.
Having lived and worked in Dubai and having shared many wonderful exchanges with my female Emirati students, I am especially interested in this overall topic and approach to dealing with the underlying agendas.
I thought I also share with you a blog by a Pakistani Feminist in response to this just released series of TV short films. She makes some extremely important observations! We have to remember to remain sensitive to the complexities that surround every agenda. This one is no exception.
See the link below:
Thank you for this, Birgit! It is wonderful to learn a little bit more about you, and I look forward to visiting this website later today after my morning meetings. Looks very worthwhile!
LOVE the article you linked to, Birgit; adds insight and depth of thinking to the topic. Thank you!
Thank you Dianne and Birgitta for these wonderful sharing: it gives hope for the future! I’m impatient to have a decent Internet connection to read and view them attentively. I’m Belgian cross-cultural coach living in Italy, and very sensitive to this topic.
Glad you found this post helpful, Nathalie. We are blessed with such a terrific community of passionate and talented people doing their best to make our world a better place! When this post was published, Burka Avenger had not yet debuted; we linked to the preview. The first episode is now out and online. Should anyone wish to view it, with English subtitles, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XahbqLdCVhE
This is just fantastic! I love Burka Avenger!
Thank you Dianne, for bringing such a delightful and positively spirited animation to the attention of Cultural Detective colleagues and followers. Having grown up around Muslim culture and identifying with Islam, it is terrifying to see what certain individuals and groups are trying to portray about a religion and its values they do not share. This invention also implies there can be a choice in clothing with optimistic connotations.
It really does seem to be a terrific show, Emerald. And I love how it came to be and all the support it’s garnered. We can work wonders when we pull together!
Hi, Dianne, This post prompts me to share a good news story from an opportunity I had by invitation of my partner’s Rotary Club to interview a Hazara teenager on the occasion of Refugee Week this past June in Australia. Zakieh left Afghanistan for Iran very early in her life with her mother and uncle, who wanted her to go to school. On finding that there was no future for her in Iran, she applied for refugee status under the UN Women in Protection program, which enabled her to come to Australia at the age of 13 with her mother. She didn’t know English when she arrived in my town in regional New South Wales in 2008. She is now 18 and graduated from high school this week. Her dream is to help her people.
What a wonderful story, Karen. Thank you for sharing. And what a privilege to be able to interview her. May her journey be smooth and effective from here on.